Blue Jays-Twins Preview
The Minnesota Twins haven’t won a home series with the Toronto Blue Jays in nearly seven years, and their one chance to end that streak this season is off to an unfavorable start.
The visitors will look to continue their rule in Minneapolis on Thursday by sweeping a day-night doubleheader, though the cold weather could work against the Blue Jays.
The nightcap will conclude this three-game series after Wednesday night’s matchup was postponed due to unseasonable cold causing a spring snowstorm. The forecast Thursday includes a high temperature of 42 degrees but clear and dry conditions.
"We’ve got a roof up there in Toronto, so we don’t get exposed to it that much. You’ve just got to be mentally tough," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
The cold could work against Toronto’s R.A. Dickey, who will start the matinée. His knuckleball generally thrives in humid, hot conditions.
Toronto (8-6) has dominated the series lately in both teams’ parks, winning 18 of 22 in Minnesota and 21 of 26 overall after Tuesday’s 9-3 victory. The Twins last won a home series with the Blue Jays when they took two of three May 25-27, 2007.
The Blue Jays seek their third straight win after totaling 20 runs and 31 hits in their last two games, with Jose Bautista, Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion combining for a 14-for-23 mark in the middle of the order. Melky Cabrera extended his hitting streak to 14 games, a franchise record to begin a season, and Brett Lawrie hit a grand slam in the ninth despite the chilly weather.
"It just kind of hits you. It takes a little bit of getting used to," Lawrie said, adding: "Get your cold gear on and man up."
The Twins (6-7) had their three-game winning streak halted but continued to get on base at an impressive clip. Their .340 on-base percentage is among the best in baseball.
Dickey (1-2, 5.30 ERA) will be out to limit that effectiveness. He’s been roughed up in two of his three starts, including Thursday’s 6-4 loss to Houston in which he allowed five runs in seven innings. He served up two homers to the Astros, something that hurt him last season when he surrendered 35, the second most in the majors.
Still, he thought his knuckleball was working and his velocity was where he needed it.
"It was a real surprise when I have a knuckleball like that and have the outcome that we had," Dickey told the team’s official website. "I had really good command of it early on … I was throwing it hard, it felt great coming out of my hand, and then we had just a couple of hiccups and it happened really quickly. It’s not like things were spiraling out of control."
His luck in Minnesota hasn’t been any better with a 1-1 record and 7.30 ERA in four games, two starts.
Dickey was originally scheduled to square off with Mike Pelfrey, but he’s been bumped to the late game while Kyle Gibson (2-0, 1.59) starts in the afternoon. The second-year right-hander has overcome four walks in each of his first two outings to win both, giving up one run in each and allowing eight hits in 11 1-3 innings. He’s never faced Toronto.
Pelfrey (0-2, 7.84) hasn’t been nearly as good in his second season with Minnesota. He allowed six runs and nine hits in five innings of a 6-1 loss to Oakland on Thursday, dropping him to 0-5 with a 7.58 ERA in his last six starts. The first of those was a loss to Toronto on Sept. 6. He went 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA against the Blue Jays last season.
This season, he’s allowed four homers in two games.
"It was tough," Pelfrey told the team’s official website after his last start. "My fastball command wasn’t very good. I threw a lot of balls. I walked too many guys. I left balls up and over the plate. If you do that, you’re going to hit. It was just a bad day of executing pitches."
Pelfrey will be opposed by Dustin McGowan (1-1, 4.00), who has had two very different outings thus far. He was tagged for four runs and eight hits in 2 2-3 innings of a 7-3 loss to the Yankees on April 4, but the right-hander went 6 1-3 innings in a 2-0 win in Baltimore on Friday.
McGowan has been outstanding in six games – two starts – against Minnesota, going 1-0 with a 1.10 ERA while holding the Twins to a .161 average.
Toronto center fielder Colby Rasmus missed Tuesday’s game with a hamstring injury while Lind is day to day after leaving with lower-back tightness.